Ukraine’s counter-offensive in the north-western Kharkiv region has been nothing short of “extraordinary”, says Svitlana Morenets in The Spectator, with troops liberating more ground in a few days than Russia had taken since April. The area had been left only lightly defended, as Moscow had moved forces south to counter a widely publicised Ukrainian attack in Kherson. The soldiers that remain are being routed by Kyiv’s forces; “one video shows a Russian tank retreating as fast as it can then running into a tree”. Military commentators are hailing the campaign: King’s College London’s Lawrence Freedman said it was “of historic importance”; West Point’s John Spencer has called it “the greatest counteroffensive since World War Two”. If Ukraine can keep hold of this recaptured territory, it could mark a “turning point” in the war.
There’s chaos in the Kremlin too, says Marc Bennetts in The Times. Rumours are circulating that defence minister Sergei Shoigu could be replaced, while Ramzan Kadyrov, the ruthless Chechen leader, has said that unless there is a change in strategy he will be forced to “explain the real situation on the ground” to Moscow officials. But for Kyiv, there’s a very real danger of overreach. Senior officials are discussing the possibility of “chasing Putin’s army across the border into Russia itself” – but Putin made clear last year that he’d use nuclear weapons if his country’s sovereignty was ever threatened. Even if he discounts the nuclear option, he could give in to longstanding demands from hardliners and “launch massive cruise missile strikes on Kyiv”. The Russian dictator has few good options left, and “the world must hope he does not choose the very worst of them”.